Who doesn’t love an expert? And who wouldn’t want to be an expert? When you need a plumber, you want an expert, don’t you? Watery mishaps at 3am are a misery, so you hire an expert to make sure it’s sorted properly. You want your financial advisor to be an expert too, and you most definitely want your divorce lawyer to be an expert. Oh, yes.
So, small issue or big issue, we tend to want people who are experts because we know they’ll sort the problem expertly, saving you grief or your sanity or both. Yes, experts are definitely what we want.
But your GP isn’t really an expert – they’re generalists who diagnose your specific issue and re-direct you to the relevant specialist expert if you need it. Or prescribe two Paracetamol if you don’t (and suggest you lose some weight).
Your mechanic isn’t really an expert either. He’s another generalist who can fix all the various bits on your car, at various hilarious prices, and seldom needs to call in an expert (unless it’s your bank manager).
We live in a world where experts are treasured and admired because their expert reputation suggests they are at the absolute peak of their profession, even if this peak relates to only a tiny bit of it. Ah, you say, but if you focus on one small aspect of a profession it’s easier to become an expert. All true, no doubt.
But as with your GP, some situations require multiple skills partly to effectively diagnose, but also to be able to put together a comprehensive multi-part solution.
This is true of the creative agency too. Prior to the industry becoming integrated, agencies mostly did just one thing: ad agencies just created ads, direct mail agencies just created direct mail, PR agencies just went to lunch, and so on.
So the burden of knowing what disciplines would be part of any marketing solution fell mostly on the client, not usually the person best able to determine this. Integration became inevitable as more clients realised that multiple media channels worked far more efficiently than just one or two.
But this has not trickled down to the creative freelancer – the experts that these multi-skilled agencies and clients use. It’s usually assumed that you only do one thing. That you couldn’t possibly be multi-skilled. That anyone with multiple skills is probably not an expert, because experts only do one thing, don’t they?
Multiple skill sets amongst freelancers are not so much un-appreciated as unknown. Sometimes designers need multiple personas on the internet just in order to be perceived as experts in each one. Yet the benefit to the client is immense in cross-over solutions, techniques and better understanding of the brief.
Perhaps now that the concept of a hybrid car – a car using multiple fuel sources expertly – is becoming common-place, the idea of multiple expertise might too. For some things, of course, you will always prefer an expert, your heart surgeon for example.
Some clients get this, of course, and after seeing the wide range of skills in the TopTal Graphic Design section, I’m thinking that this could be the place to find a more realistic approach. There is a massive range of skills and many people who are multi-skilled, so it’s perfect for clients to find the exact skill-mix that’s right. Maybe not for finding a heart surgeon, but you have to draw the line somewhere…